Serving multicultural clients is an important goal for most businesses today, especially for mission-driven companies who value inclusion and understand evolving demographics. And yet there’s a large gap between those aspirations and actually creating and delivering inclusive products and services that drive results.

How can you tell if a business leader has bridged that gap? Ask how they serve communities of color beyond corporate philanthropy.

To be clear, philanthropy remains an important tool and valuable way to invest in under-resourced communities, but a truly inclusive client experience must start with your core business offerings.

What many executives miss

Abundance not only exists in multicultural communities, it is growing.

The future of wealth is diverse. Today, more than one million high net worth investors are Black, Asian or Hispanic Americans—underscoring how multicultural families are accumulating generational wealth. But millionaires or not, members of multicultural communities represent a significant opportunity for companies that do the work to serve them. Inclusion isn’t limited to charitable efforts—people of color should be sought-after clients.

This line of thinking still evades many business leaders. Companies overwhelmingly have not evolved their services and products largely because their client base has not evolved—which means that when multicultural clients consider engaging with them, they may not have the solutions these clients are looking for.

Take the financial services industry as an example. If a person with generational wealth asks for an investment strategy to preserve that wealth, many firms will be on familiar ground with case studies and estate planning experts available to help.

If, however, a multicultural or ally investor walks in the same door and asks that firm how they can invest their millions to help advance racial equity in entrepreneurship—most firms today won’t know how to handle that request, nor will they have solutions to address it.

This kind of scenario—and missed opportunity—happens every day across other industries. I’ve seen it many times during my 15 years in the industry. When multicultural clients aren’t provided with the tailored, culturally relevant services they require, they will take their business elsewhere. That weakness suddenly becomes your competitor’s advantage.

So how can business leaders get up to speed?

Listen and ask questions.

It’s important to dig deep when speaking with clients about what they want—and don’t assume that everyone has the same priorities. Businesses should also be prepared to answer clients’ pointed questions about the value they’re providing and how clients can ensure they’re getting their money’s worth. Multicultural clients engaging with businesses that may not initially have been built with them in mind—from financial services to education to housing—are typically skeptical; and it’s up to these companies to ease their concern.

Train staff to be sensitive to cultural nuances.

The better companies understand the communities they’re working with, the better their client service will be. In banking, for instance, financial advisors should learn about the prevalence of family financial connectivity in certain multicultural communities and work to accommodate investors who may want to share a bank account with a sibling or extended family member. A simple question posed to a prospective client, "Why would you put your sibling on your bank account?” could actually be a big misstep because it shows a lack of awareness of cultural context and how it plays an important role in financial decision-making. Instead, lead with empathy: “I see that it’s important to have your sibling listed on your bank account. Can you share which other important family members you go to for financial decisions so we can create strategies that fit you and your loved ones."

Center multicultural perspectives when creating products and services.

For financial institutions, that includes providing more solutions for Black or allied investors interested in supporting Black-owned businesses. For real estate developers, that includes offering more multigenerational housing that meets the needs of Asian families. Where are the opportunities in your organization?

Philanthropy is a good start, but when it comes to inclusive client service, companies must take a business-minded approach, or risk seeing business shrink in the future. It’s time to get to work.